Feast of the Ascension

Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of the Father for all eternity. From the moment Christ ascended into heaven, the Church has remembered the event in her liturgy with accompanying prayers reflecting the importance of the feast. The prayers associated with the Mass of the Ascension are very old and attest to our common belief of where Jesus has gone, we too can follow.

Opening Prayer:

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exultation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.

 The opening prayer is directed to God the Father in which the faithful are thankful for such a great event. Thankful because Christ through His death and Resurrection has broken down the door which separated humanity from God. Humanity has never had a chance to be in the intimate presence of God until Christ ascended to heaven. Through Jesus’ humanity, it is now possible for the Creator and the creature to live in intimate harmony.  The disparity between God and man, Creator and creature, has been bridged by Jesus who is God and man. The Church and faithful now possess a certain hope that our lowly humanity will follow where the head has already gone, giving greater meaning and direction to a person’s life.

Prayer over the Offerings

We offer now in supplication, O Lord, to honor the wondrous Ascension of your Son: grant, we pray, that through this most holy exchange we, too, may rise up to the heavenly realms.

 The holy exchange mentioned in the prayer is the exchange of our gifts of bread and wine, transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The exchange lifts up the “lowliness” and temporal characteristics of the gift into a “glorified” and eternal reality. The dynamic is played out again in the life of Jesus where his human nature and body is offered in exchange for a life of eternity, made clearer in his ascension into heaven, whereby his divine and human nature has become eternal by residing at the right hand of the Father. Our hope is the holy exchange happens to us too, when our corruptible natures become incorruptible.

Preface

   . . . For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory, conqueror of sin and death, ascended to the highest heavens, as Angels gazed in wonder. Mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of hosts, he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

 The prayer of the preface directs our minds to the reality of the divinity of Jesus as the King of glory who existed always and forever with the Father, and was the only one to descend from heaven, now returns to be at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus’ divinity is mentioned in harmony with his humanity as being the mediator between God and man. Only Jesus who is both divine and human can accomplish this mission. Finally, the prayer assures us that Jesus’ Ascension into heaven is not distancing from humanity, but more, a way in which mortals can attain the glory of heaven and reside in the presence of God. This is true because by baptism we are members of Christ’s body. Christ has already ascended to the glory of heaven and where the head has already gone, the body (church) will hope to follow. 

Prayer after Communion

Almighty and ever-living God, who allow those on earth to celebrate divine mysteries, grant, we pray, that Christian hope may draw us onward to where our nature is united with you.

 The faithful again in prayer, thank the Father for their ability to participate in the divine mysteries while still on earth by being able to receive the Eucharist.  By participating in the Eucharist human beings have a foretaste of our heavenly homeland where Christ has already ascended. As we begin to live in communion with God through the Eucharist, our hope and future desire is to be in full communion with him in heaven.

 The Feast of the Ascension reminds us of how fleeting our journey here on earth is, and reaffirms our ultimate desire and destination is to be with God for all time. While still on earth we are not called to be idle, but to work as the Body of Christ in bringing the message of salvation to the world who has forgotten this promise.

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